Firstly, I want to say I am writing this article as a mostly white woman who grew up in Georgia (USA), before living the next eight years in Ireland. I’m familiar with the violent racial inequality from my years in the Deep South. I am also very familiar with colonial struggle from my time spent in Ireland (for those who don’t know, Ireland was occupied by the British for hundreds of years. During this time the Irish were second-class citizens, robbed of their lands, their language taken away, and lives lost). My past is what informs my anger with the concept that anyone, black or any other race, has any right to tell anyone else how to dress his or her body.
I would like to establish that I understand and can appreciate the problems of stylized cultural appropriation. I accept that cornrows originated from an attractive way to tie back textured black hair. I have also been offended and outraged at the fetishism people like Miley Cyrus have exhibited in using black women as comical symbols onstage. BUT, I feel like there is a huge and important difference between raising awareness of the negative impact this degrading sexualization is having, and acquiring the right to tell any human being what personal bodily choices they are allowed to make.
What infuriates me is why any human being has the right to tell me how I can and cannot do my own hair, based off the color of my skin. I am a white woman – I was born this way, so I demand to know why I owe my freedom of bodily choice to anyone else? It is MY body, I do not owe it or the way I dress it to any racial movement. Do I have to be restricted in my personal choices to whatever this group of people with black skin decide is white enough for me to appropriately choose? Isn’t that a disgusting contradiction? My freedom of choice should not be challenged or taken away from me by ANYONE, regardless of his or her own racial experiences of living in America. To put it simply, if I want to have cornrows, I can choose to have them without fetishizing people with black skin, and it is my utter and complete right as a free woman to choose so.
The issues are separate. Every human being, of all races, should be calling for attention towards police brutality and inequality, and women’s rights. But I don’t tell anyone not to do his or her hair like mine, nor do I accept someone else claiming my freedom from me in the name of a cause which I do not owe my freedom to.